PARIS -- An intriguing social phenomenon prompted a horrific killing spree in Santa Barbara, California, last week, and the same phenomenon might help explain the surprising results of last weekend's European Parliament elections.
The suspected Santa Barbara killer, 22-year old Elliot Rodger, left behind a 141-page diatribe and multiple online videos expressing frustration over a failure to score with the opposite sex, despite ticking what he considered to be all the right boxes: a BMW, nice clothes and good looks. He couldn't figure out why that wasn't enough. Worse, why would college women instead gravitate towards loudmouth jerks?
I can attest that women will instinctively choose a loudmouth jerk over a fop -- at least until a non-jerk with discernible alpha male characteristics materializes. Why? Because jerks have many of the characteristics that approximate leadership qualities. In college especially, it's difficult to make a distinction between a jerk and a leader, if only for lack of professional and life experience.
European voters just exhibited a similar preference.
On the same weekend as the Santa Barbara killings, the European Parliament held its elections. Extreme parties were elected in England and France: Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Marine Le Pen's ultra-nationalist National Front. French political-strategist friends have been telling me that they can't understand why the public would vote for so-called extremists over politicians who have gone to the trouble of crafting and propagating the perfect focus-group-tested messages. In short, the political fops don't know why the loudmouth jerks are getting all the girls when the more moderate parties possess all the trappings of the perfect gentleman.
The French craved the alpha-male leadership of former President Nicolas Sarkozy in the wake of President Jacques Chirac's foppish leadership -- right up until Sarkozy overshot into perceived jerk territory. When Sarkozy had exasperated the voting public with his perceived political hyperactivity, "Mr. Normal" Francois Hollande scored for Team Fop on the rebound. (That's a critical caveat: An elected jerk becomes vulnerable if he turns into a fop, or vice versa.)
Hollande's military intervention in Africa under humanitarian pretext initially exemplified leadership, but now that the media focus has turned to domestic matters, he is boring the French electorate to the point that voters are willing to settle for anything that even remotely approximates the leadership qualities of engagement, passion, courage and outspokenness.